Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 11 December 1891

Date: December 11, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08210

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. . Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Jason McCormick, Will Cooper, Brandon James O'Neil, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Medical Superintendent's
Office.
INSANE ASYLUM
LONDON ONTARIO
11 Dec 1891

We are having wonderful weather here—as mild as September or April—I look for a sudden drop of the mercury almost any night. Just at present the dandelions are in blossom by thousands on the asylum lawns. I lecture tomorrow morning and a week from then (if all be well) give the last lecture of the course—then I am going in for a rest and a good time. I think I have done more work the last 3 months than ever before in the same time—and I feel none the worse thank the Lord. Right away after Christmas I shall go to work in ernest at my "Cosmic Consciousness" piece1 and am in hopes of making a good thing of it. How are you, dear Walt? Does Longaker2 come to see you often? I fear you have a bad time.

Best love
R M Bucke


Correspondent:
Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. Bucke is referring to his book Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (Philadelphia: Innes and Sons, 1905). In this volume, Bucke discussed the profound awareness or state of "cosmic consciousness" that he believed was achieved by such persons as Buddha, Jesus, Dante, and Whitman, among others. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. For more on Bucke and his theories of consciousness, see Matthew Ignoffo, "Cosmic Consciousness," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Daniel Longaker (1858–1949) was a Philadelphia physician who specialized in obstetrics. He became Whitman's doctor in early 1891 and provided treatment during the poet's final illness. Carol J. Singley reports that "Longaker enjoyed talking with Whitman about human nature and reflects that Whitman responded as well to their conversations as he did to medical remedies" ("Longaker, Dr. Daniel [1858–1949]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R.LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998]). [back]


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